Exercise

Lower back pain exercises

There are some simple back exercises and stretches you can do at home to help ease lower back pain and improve your strength and flexibility.

Aim to do these exercises every day, along with other activities like walking, swimming or yoga.

Your pain should start to ease within 2 weeks and will usually pass in about 4 to 6 weeks.

See a GP if:

  • your pain doesn't improve within a few weeks
  • you experience severe pain while trying any of these exercises

Bottom to heels stretch

Two pictures. Top: a man on all fours in stretch start position. Bottom picture: a man doing the bottom to heels stretch.

Start position: Kneel on all fours, with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders. Try to keep your back and neck fairly straight, and don't lock your elbows.

Action: Slowly move your bottom back towards your heels. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Tips:

  • avoid going right back onto your heels if you have a knee problem
  • ensure correct positioning with the help of a mirror
  • only stretch as far as feels comfortable

Knee rolls

Two pictures. Top: Man lying on back, legs bent, arms out. Bottom: Man with legs rolled to the side

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small flat cushion or book under your head. Keep your knees bent and together. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: Roll your knees to one side, keeping both shoulders on the floor. Hold the stretch for one deep breath and return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times, alternating sides.

Tips:

  • only move as far as feels comfortable
  • place a pillow between your knees for comfort

Back extensions

Two pictures. Top: man lying face down in back extension start position. Bottom: man doing back extension stretch.

Start position: Lie on your front and rest on your forearms, with your elbows bent at your sides. Look towards the floor and keep your neck straight.

Action: Keeping your neck straight, arch your back up by pushing down on your hands. You should feel a gentle stretch in the stomach muscles. Breathe and hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position.

Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Tips:

  • don't bend your neck backwards
  • keep your hips on the floor

Deep abdominal strengthening

Two pictures. Top: Man on back in abdominal strengthening start position. Bottom: man doing deep abdominal stretch.

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small, flat cushion or book under your head. Bend your knees, keeping your feet straight and hip-width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: As you breathe out, gently tense the muscles in your pelvis and lower tummy so they're pulled up towards your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and relax.

Repeat 5 times.

Tips:

  • this is a slow, gentle exercise – don't try to tense your muscles too quickly or too hard
  • make sure you don't tense up through the neck, shoulders or legs

Pelvic tilts

Two pictures. Top: man in pelvic tilt start position. Bottom: man doing pelvic tilt.

Start position: Lie on your back. Place a small, flat cushion or book under your head. Bend your knees, keeping your feet straight and hip-width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in.

Action: Gently flatten your lower back into the floor and tense your stomach muscles. Now tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back and return to the starting position.

Repeat 10 to 15 times, tilting your pelvis back and forth in a slow rocking motion.

Tips:

  • don't press down through your neck, shoulders or feet
  • place one hand on your stomach and the other under your lower back – if you're doing the exercise correctly, you should feel the muscles working in these areas

Page last reviewed: 16/02/2018
Next review due: 16/02/2021